Creating a Pitch
Building Your Team
Dividing Ownership of the Company

10 questions to ask yourself before turning your innovation into a start-up company ? Patent protection? How will you make money? Are Investors interested?



In-person education opportunities within Pitt can all be accessed through the Navigate Our Offerings Link and you can always check our events page for upcoming educational topics as well.

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  • Pitt Ventures First Gear
    • The National Science Foundation named the University of Pittsburgh an I-Corps Site in early 2015. The I-Corps Team program is a process that helps you determine what potential customers care about and whether it is possible to build a viable business around your innovation. The Pitt Ventures First Gear program is modeled on the I-Corps program. At the heart of this program lies the Business Model Canvas. (See below for more info on the Business Model Canvas.)
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Online Educational Resources

Creating a Pitch

You are encouraged to play an active role in the marketing effort. The Innovation Institute will work closely with you to help to develop your value proposition into a very concise and simply worded description of your innovation and the business opportunity it provides. Some people refer to such a description as an elevator pitch.

As the name suggests, the premise is simple: You get into an elevator with a potentially valuable industry partner or investor. Now you have the time it takes to ride an elevator to capture that person’s interest in your innovation and your value proposition, along with what you need to succeed.

The pitch should include the following:

  • Brief description of your innovation (non-confidential and in layman’s terms);
  • Problem that your innovation solves;
  • Market potential;
  • Comparison to existing solutions;
  • Explanation of the development stage of your innovation; and
  • Status of any intellectual property protection you have received to date.
  • Building a financial model

Networking Groups

Building Your Team

There is no recipe book for how you go to idea to a startup but along the way you will find that building a team and finding mentors that can help your startup or small business with business decisions is a vital, often overlooked aspect.  Luckily, there are several resources here at Pitt that can help.  Our mentors and consultants vary in expertise from marketing, finance, engineering, and more.

Dividing Ownership of the Company

Once you and your team have made the decision to create a startup, an early question is focused on how to divide the shares. The default answer is take the number of shares and divide by the number of founders. This implies that everyone to this point who is an owner of the startup contributed equally. This is rarely the case. While it may seem simple – later when real money is involved – this easy choice may lead to a lot of unhappiness.

Frank Demmler created a methodology and tool to address dividing the founder’s pie.

You may learn more here in this document explaining his process and access the calculator to help your startup divide company shares.

Also important is to develop an agreement on how, as the company grows, the founders and future employees will share in future allocations of equity.